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OYO101: Power Without The Powerful— Inside The Declining Influence Of Politics Of Godfatherism In Oyo | Muftau Gbadegesin

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In 2010, the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao granted a powerful interview. But before that pulse-pounding and breathtaking interview, the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi had alleged a threat to his life blaming the then state chief security officer. By 2011, the crux of Aare’s scathing and scintillating interview had rocked and rattled the political status quo.

More importantly, the then governor, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala’s striking popularity and wide acceptability plus the confidence of jinx breaking the second term curse had suffered a devastating blow.

Alongside other factors, that interview provided an undisputable window into the continuous struggle for relevance and influence among the powerful – struggles that in large part are self-serving and self-conceited

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In a way, that contentious interview despite its hard-hitting stance was deemed instrumental to the electoral misfortune of that governor— an election with an unusual result; the winner was declared with a ridiculous 32.6% of the votes. Indeed, interviews particularly with the power brokers provide a window into the inner recesses of their minds. It’s especially so in a state as Oyo where gladiators sometimes differ on who gets what, when, and how— as Aung San Suu Kyi contended “fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it”. Crucially, it’s not uncommon for the power-brokers to wring each other’s neck in political mortal combat. Where power, influence, and authority are concerned, the powerful can never be found wanting at loggerhead. And as the saying goes, where two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

There is always one Oyo with its unique history. Whether as the extraordinarily powerful political headquarters of the ancient kingdom that spanned hundreds of years or as the administrative capital of the old Western region, the place known today as Oyo state has had an unpretentious date with history.

More than any other in the country, Oyo towers higher as a truly pace-setting state; leading with inspiration and high hope. Like the Siamese twins, Oyo also has its history intricately tied to the apron string of the entire Yoruba race – displaying its rich tangible and intangible heritage with mirthful exceptionality. In its uniqueness, Oyo stands tall as a melting pot between the past and the present: an embodiment of what an enduring legacy can imply.

As various historical and archeological excavations have pointed out, what is today Oyo, not the state, was supremely founded by the enormously powerful Oranmiyan in the 13th after migrating from Ile-Ife – the cradle of the civilization. From that historic vantage moment came into life one of the most powerful, successful, and dynamically resourceful Kingdoms in the world: a kingdom whose adoption of constitutional monarchy and separation of power preceded that of the American democracy.

Additionally, the geographic enclave dubbed Oyo also had its unrivaled influence spread far and wide through the present-day Benin Republic and its people scattered across the length and breadth of the world.

In essence, Oyo has always enjoyed that huge concentration of highly revered, powerful, and influential figures since time immemorial. From the days of the mythological Alaafin Sango to the incredibly powerful Aganjusola, through to Dahomey’s conqueror, Ojigi, to the Atiba Atobatele, the founder of the modern-day Oyo through to Alaafin Abubakar Siyanbola Onikepe, to the African legendary Monarch, Alaafin Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi to the times of the Ibadan warlords: Ogunmola, Bashorun, Oluyole, Lagelu, through to Aare Onakakanfo Samuel Akintola through Adisa Akinloye to the life and time of Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu, in the content and context of power play in Oyo/Ibadan, it has always been more about passing the political baton from one influential figure to another. In his heyday, Adedibu was reputed to have taken an unusual likeness on a prominent legal titan due to his tribal marks – because of that, he was made a relevant politician!

For instance, various events that culminated in the dawn of the fourth republic didn’t elicit much political passion in the state. By 1999, there weren’t many feathers to ruffle as far as power was concerned. The country was just transitioning to civil rule after one of its most brutal experiences in the hand of General Sani Abacha and of course the easygoing General Abdulsalam Abubakar. In that relatively distant time, there were also calls for ethnic solidarity in the aftermath of the June 12 struggle especially the one championed by the socio-political group, Afenifere. That way, powerful peoples in the state sheath their swords and waited until the next poll knocked on the door.

By 2003, the political dynamics had changed from one of ethnic solidarity to call for OBJ’s second term and the PDP’s clandestine determination to dominate all regions including the Southwestern region – the stronghold of the opposition Alliance for Democracy. In that way, the government of Alhaji Lamidi Onaolapo Adeshina was truncated by the political machinery of Alhaji Lamidi Adedidu, perhaps in conjunction with one of the most other eminent power-brokers.

Thus, that political permutation eventually paved the way for the electoral victory of Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja. But in a twist of fate, Senator Ladoja would have his smooth administration ambushed by those who also made him. “Initially,” the Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi said in an interview (see the Nation Newspaper of April 1, 2014) “when the former President made his intention known (intention to have Senator Ladoja yanked off from office), Aare and I were unhappy”. Despite all odds, the King continued, we were sympathetic to Ladoja’s cause. We passionately appealed to Obasanjo to forgive Ladoja”.

The rest as they say is history. The Italian maverick Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, once wrote: “The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, all manner of morbid symptoms appear”. He could have been writing about the death of the notable power-brokers in Oyo state. Perhaps the surprising death of prominent influential figures in the state appears to have changed the current political calculation and permutation.

Strikingly, for the first time in fifty-three years, Oyo state would go to the poll without one of its influential monarchs. As we’ve seen, there’s no doubt that the vacuum created by the demise of those powerful figures would be hard to fill. In effect, their death might spark people’s passion and consciousness to take their destinies into their hands as the 2023 election gathers a startling and unprecedented wave of dust.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s Opinion about Issues affecting Oyo state, published on Saturdays. He can be reached via muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850

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